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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

Nightlife on a field guiding course

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Camp manager blogs are written by our current students who each get a chance to lead and manage a group (of their fellow students) for a period of one week. This blog is by Josh Judd.

3 min read

During my tenure as camp manager, my thoughts were distracted from time to time by the topic or subject of this blog, which I knew I would need to write . 

The sun sets on another beautiful day in South Africa’s Lowveld.

The logical or easy option would’ve been to discuss the incredible track & sign/trailing courses that we completed with Collin Patrick, his daughter Samantha and their master tracker, Coda. This would’ve led me down a path of explaining the intricacies and attention to detail which are required to excel within this area of guiding. 

My second thought process entailed writing about some of the photos taken off our camera trap which has been on an ever more entertaining roundabout trip throughout campus and the Makalali Private Nature Reserve with each new locality perceived to be better than its previous localit. We tried to capture some of the incredible animals that are found within this special locality in the foothills of the northern Drakensberg Mountain range. 

After debating the previous two thoughts, I decided to settle on a topic which I’ve felt has not received the credit that it deserves, nightlife on a field guide course. 

Nightlife on course

A Verreaux Eagle Owl at night, illuminated by just a bit of residual light.

The only free time we really get in the bush is in the evenings once we have finished our delicious dinner cooked by our very own masterchef Rose. Once we have wolfed down dinner we often finish our evening off by going on a night drive on the public road around the reserves in order to explore the wonders of the bush at night. There is nothing quite like living in an area with multiple reserves next to each other; it makes the drives extremely interesting and always gives us a story or two to tell the following morning. 

When the sun sets and our diurnal critters rest their weary heads after a long day of browsing, grazing and general antics the night brings with it more elusive animals that wake up when the sun sets and start getting ready for their evening of busyness. Who doesn’t love to bump into an African civet making its way on its nightly route to forage and hunt down various insects and the odd arachnid! 

The wise old spotted eagle owl sits as still as a statue on his post waiting for an unsuspecting rodent or small mouse to come sneaking around looking for food, only to become dinner himself as our beautiful nocturnal owl swallows it whole with one large gulp! 

Snakes in the Lowveld

A snake looks away from the camera, it’s being held safely by a snake handler using the appropriate tools. 

With the rains starting to come down, we couldn’t have been more excited to jump into the car to go looking for all things reptile. As we made our way down the dirt road, I spotted it, the awesome silhouette of a puff adder. What an incredible snake! It is crazy to think that this spectacular beast that was moving ever so slowly over the road is actually one of the fastest striking snakes in the world. With the rains, we were fortunate enough to find seven amazing species of snake in the two days. 

To add some perspective to how incredible these night drives have been, I would like to pose a question to you. Would you say we have had more incredible sightings within the reserves or outside the reserves on a normal dirt road on our nightly drives? 

A brown hyena makes its way down a dirt road, walking towards the camera. 

Whilst it may seem impossible to beat the incredible 4m long monster African rock python we were privileged to see within Makalali Game Reserve or watching two cheetahs unceremoniously being asked as kindly to leave their zebra kill by a brown hyena at Shlereni Dam, there was something very special about being able to drive at 10pm at night on some occasions through these wild areas. 

Empirically speaking for those statistically inclined, we saw more male lion, leopard, African civet, cheetah, sable and roan antelope, white tailed mongoose, potentially one Meller’s mongoose, rhino and even pangolin during our night drives than what we saw in the reserves. On that note, I’m off to bed, goodnight!

From day drives to nightlife on a field guiding course, you could experience it all with Bushwise. Make your career a wild one and apply today.




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